Newbie to meat birds needing advice.

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by usedhobarts, Mar 1, 2015.

  1. usedhobarts

    usedhobarts Chirping

    Apr 18, 2014
    Hi all, I'm wanting to add a meat bird flock to our hobby farm. I'm looking at ordering 100 jumbo Cornish cross chicks.

    I here and read all kinds of different things about meat birds that concern me. Space for a hundred is a non issue. My big concerns are about mortality rates, co mingling with layers, diet to insure the best tasting tender birds and the best time of the year to get chicks to raise in Northern Mn.

    Mortality, I've been told I should expect up to a 30% death lose for no apparent reason prior to reaching butchering age. Is this correct? It seems odd.

    Should I allow these birds to free range and co mingle with my layers? I really don't want them in my layer coop and I certainly don't want to be sorting 150 chickens every night.
    I guess this goes to diet than also. Is free ranging good for meat birds as far as taste etc.? I was told this breed does not fly so basic temp snow fencing will keep them corralled is that correct? I was told by someone that most birds we buy in the store never see the light of day. I guess in a nut sell I'm trying to figure the plan in advance of ordering them.

    Any suggestions , thoughts or experience would be greatly appreciated.

  2. TyerFamilyFarm

    TyerFamilyFarm In the Brooder

    Feb 16, 2015
    We have raised a ton of meat animals on our ranch but j am getting into meat chickens as well this year. I get my first batch this week from welp hatchery. From my understanding if given the room they will forage just like regular chickens. The key is keeping their feed on a schedule. I look forward to everyone's response so I can learn as well. I'm sure people will chime in on this
  3. TEXAS715

    TEXAS715 In the Brooder

    Feb 23, 2015
    They are a different kind of chicken. I finished 100 a couple weeks ago and I am about to start another 200.

    Hope his gives you some answers your questions to your answers for the way I raise them. I don't pasture them or free range them.

    I don't mingle them because their diet and feed and light schedule is much different from my layers or ducks. They require higher protein and less calcium then layers. I also feed them 24/7 for the first 3 weeks.

    The standard acceptable mortality rate should be between 3-5%. There have been times when I haven't lost any. Others here have also had good results.

    They won't fly very far when young and as they put on weight they don't fly at all. Running at the end is at best a slow jog.

    I live down here in Texas in the middle of the broiler country. I am with in 25 miles of two chicken processing plants. The only light of day they might see is if the weather is just right so the side curtains on the house go down.

    I would suggest you be prepared for the amount of feed and water they required about 2.5 weeks in till the end. They are chicken on steroid and nothing like a layer.

    Up there I don't know when you can start broilers with the temps. Here we freak out when the temps hit the 30's.

    Go for it and enjoy.
  4. I live in southern Manitoba and I run 800 Cornish cross giants every summer. I usually sit at an average of 7% loss each year. I had one year of a 50% loss, and I had changed nothing in my raising methods. (I think I got an unhealthy batch from the hatchery) I talked to a fellow farmer who had huge losses the same year with chicks from the same hatchery. He had never had a loss like that either.

    Handling to and from the hatchery can make a huge difference in performance for the first couple weeks.

    In the colder climate areas, you are looking up to a 15% loss. Even if you have your set-up perfect, perfect food, and what not, your will still have mortality. It's normal in commercially bred chickens.

    Are you milling your own feed? Feed texture can cause mortality. If you are milling feed, a very fine feed will be needed for the first couple weeks. If it is too course you will have problems.

    are you hatching? or getting them from a supplier?

    If you are getting them from the hatchery, you have to take in consideration on the stress the chicks have gone through to get to the farm. So be prepared in advanced. ELECTROLYTES!!!! I use frozen beet pucks. Good source of sugars to boost up them stressed little kids, and it gets them pecking for food early.

    I start my chicks in the beginning of May, but I have an insulated room I keep them in till some feathering, then I send out into the main barn where I keep them there for another week or until I feel it is warm enough for them to head outside.

    I find that after the first month, most mortality's are due to the breed. The giants are very susceptible to leg problems and heart problems. If they are confined and are unable to run then you will get "lazy legs". They cant walk and just sit by the feed where they will eat themselves till they flip.

    I will go and push my chickens everyday, make sure they get up and stretch and go outside. Once they start lazying around the feed, it's hard to get them to stop. If you are raising naturally, you do not want them to sit at the feeders. They will just wast your money away.

    Time is also a factor... Commercial breeds are to finish fast and tend to have higher mortality when naturally raising. Longer finish time means more stress on their hearts which have a limited lifespan. So you will tend to see more flippers nearing butcher time.

    Heat, if your birds are panting heavily, they need to have a fan on them or atleast a small mist. panting birds heart rate will pick up and with the giants, a fast heart rate will lead to a flipper.(in the later stages of finishing)

    Hope I was able to give ya some useful information!

    Good Luck!
  5. DimondaleBergs

    DimondaleBergs Chirping

    Feb 28, 2013
    Great advice WildfireSmitty.
    By "flipper" do you mean they die? LOL That's what I'm taking it as. I want to try raising meaties this year. We are thinking of only getting a few (we are small scale and live in the suburbs. lol) for this first attempt. We have laying hens, and live in Michigan. If we clear a place in the snow (which is SUPPOSED to start melting soon..fingers crossed! [​IMG]) could we put them out there during the day when they get old enough? Our local feed store already has meaties in!
    And how much should we figure on needing for food? We will not be milling our own :(.
  6. Yeah, by flipper I mean die, usually heart attack in older more heavier birds. Flipping can also be a sign of other major health issues in the flock. I don't see them outside a problem, if it's not to sudden of a temp drop from where they are being brought out from. I'd keep a special eye on the predators this time of year, even in the burbs. I've watched a raven tackle one of my full feathered young and kill it.

    As for food, I would have no clue what the feed consumption would be on bagged feed.

    Not sure if this feed chart could help you?

    Feed chart
  7. usedhobarts

    usedhobarts Chirping

    Apr 18, 2014
    Great info. Thanks. I'm getting 100 chicks the first time. They will be shipped in but not very far so I'm guessing next day as most USPS priority packages arrive the next day if origin and destination are within 500 miles. The chicks will come from Iowa. I'm thinking of getting them in May also. I think it will be easier for me to keep them warm enough if need be here in May than getting them later since I have read that heat is hard on them and you have confirmed that. I should be able to finish them out by July which should avoid most heat possibilities here. I do have fans in the barn if need be.

    As for feed, I'm not sure yet. I don't plan on milling on the first run. I have read they should be fed a 20-23% starter crumble for the first 10 days and then 18-20% grower there after. Do you agree with that? I'm still a little confused on feeding times. One of breeders I was corresponding with said to feed around the clock for the first 10 days and then on 12 hour cycles thereafter taking the feed away at night entirely. I guess my confusion is, does that simply mean have food available all day and none at night as there is only 2 , 12 hour cycles in a day? What, when and how much are you feeding yours? Is it measured weight per bird thing or just free choice for certain amounts of time? When you say electrolytes I assume you mean an additive to their water? Is that just when I first get them or ongoing? I really appreciate your information. Your climate is similar to mine. If your in southern Manitoba your probably close to me. I'm considered the grand forks , nd area on mn side of the river.

    As far as housing them go I plan on designating about a 8 x16' area in the barn and 16 x 30' run on the outside of the barn. Do you think this is large enough for 100 birds? I was planning on breaking this up in 4 , 4' wide sections with 25 birds in each so they would have 4x8 inside and 4x30 outside. They would see each other but could not get to each other. I was told overcrowding has a direct connection is mortality rate primarily because if they get spooked they all run to a corner in a big monkey pile and some of bottom ones smother. The thought on doing the 25 per section was in part to possibly prevent this somewhat and seperating the coop in 4 sections won't be a big deal since The build out for their housing area will start from a clean slate. Another reason is to keep them oving as much as possible. I plan on having feeders and waters inside and in a covered area all the way on the opposite end outside in the runs. I was told if you rotate the feeding ends it keeps the birds moving voluntarily. Also, can I presume roosting poles are not needed and they will simply sleep inside at night in the pine bedding?

    Finally what is thoughts on paying the extra fees for vaccinations and spray?

    Thank you so much in advance. I really appreciate any and all advise. This site was phenonimal in getting me started out right on my layer flock. I feel the same way about meat birds as my layers even though they are destine for the freezer. I want them to be healthy, happy and well cared for during their short lives.
  8. usedhobarts

    usedhobarts Chirping

    Apr 18, 2014
    Just wanted to add my results. The Cornish x was a complete success. We went with 50 instead of 100 and my only regret is going down to 50. Despite all the scare about flippers etc. We had none. We bought 50, 52 arrived and we processed 51. 1 was killed by the dogs. We processed between week 8-9. The birds averaged about 5 lbs and broad breast gorgeous. The taste was better. We did 10 freedom Rangers also and they did well but if your like me and are feeding to grocery store kids go with the ccx's. The Rangers have great taste for the refined palet but average joe will think semi game bird.
  9. Sabz

    Sabz Songster

    Mar 27, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    This is strange phenomenon and I'm not sure if all coops and flocks would do it.. but I raise meaties and layers together but they don't mix. My coop is separated in two halves - layers and meat birds, but comes a point in their development that the layers don't peck on the meaties anymore, so from that time the door in the coop is always open.

    At night I always have layers on the perch on one side, and the meaties on the other :) They don't mix.

    As for mortality I agree, it is NOT 30%! I lost 2-3 last year (on 40) and this year I think I lost 2 (not counting the predator that entered my run).

    I always lose them when they are about 6 weeks old and the big summer heat strikes. My worst enemy has been heat all along. I buy my babies from the same place everywhere and they have never been sick. I keep them in the house a few days to check on them.

    I don't get them vaccinated as I don't see the utility yet and because I prefer to eat meat that was not vaccinated or treated or medicated.

    As for meat being rough, it happened with my last batch. They were not cornish X, they were another type of meat bird a lot more active. They played, jumped, ran all day. Never laying down!! Those guys gave tough meat. They had free ranged a lot on my lawn and got too muscular.
    I prefer the taste (more the tenderness) of the cornish X probably just because they move a little less (even though when given a chance to free range a lot they remain relatively active animals).
  10. Sabz

    Sabz Songster

    Mar 27, 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Oh as far as food goes:
    For the first week or two I feed almost constantly. I want them to get a good start.

    Then they move to the coop and I feed morning and night. They run out of food a few hours after I feed. So I don't really do the 12 ON and 12 hours off food, but by feeding twice a day they are restricted in the middle of the day.

    At 5 weeks I start feeding 3 times a day. In the morning, at 5 when I'm back from work and at 8-9 when they go back in the coop at night. I find that at that age, they fight a lot if they don't have anything to eat for a long time.

    I don't calculate the quantity of food but I weight my chickens on a weekly basis.. I colored them and I selected 6 of them to weight each week. If they don't grow enough, I increase my feeding portions (or vice versa).

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